ARLINGTON, Texas – Senior writer John Oehser examines five big plays that shaped the Jaguars' 34-14 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in a 2021 Preseason Week 3 game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Sunday
1. Fast start.Jaguars Head Coach Urban Meyer said he wanted to see better rhythm and more points from the first-team offense. Rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence ensured Meyer saw both Sunday, and did so on the Jaguars' first drive. Lawrence's 38-yard pass to veteran wide receiver Phillip Dorsett II was perhaps Lawrence's best throw of the preseason, with Dorsett making a toe-tap reception on the sideline to turn 2nd-and-4 into a first down at the Cowboys 24-yard line. Lawrence, after leading the Jaguars' first-team offense to just one field goal on eight previous preseason possessions, capped the drive with a double-pump touchdown pass to veteran wide receiver Pharoh Cooper for an 18-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 11:27 remaining in the first quarter.
2. Just short. Credit Jaguars veteran safety Rudy Ford with a big stop on the Cowboys' third series. On 3rd-and-8 from the Dallas 20, Cowboys quarterback Cooper Rush passed short to tight end Nick Eubanks. Ford charged Eubanks and stopped him two yards short of the first down, forcing a Dallas punt. The play was part of a solid first quarter for the Jaguars' defense, which held the Cowboys to 35 yards and two first downs in the quarter and didn't allow Dallas to move past its 32 in the quarter. That set the tone for the game and allowed the offense time and field position for its best outing of the preseason. The Jaguars' strong preseason run defense also continued early, with Dallas rushing for just 19 yards on seven carries in the first quarter.
3. Viska time.The Jaguars' rhythm offensively continued in the second quarter – with Lawrence, wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. and tight end Chris Manhertz big reasons. Lawrence, who completed four passes for 42 yards to tight ends Sunday, moved the Jaguars to the Cowboys 23 with a 15-yard pass to Manhertz on the final play of the first quarter. Shenault then opened the second quarter with one of the game's highlight plays, catching a short pass from Lawrence and turning it into a 20-yard gain to the Cowboys three by dragging two defenders the final five yards. After a holding penalty, Lawrence passed nine yards to Shenault then capped the drive with a four-yard touchdown pass to Shenault for a 14-0 lead with 13:27 remaining in the half.
4. Laying out.In a first half of Jaguars highlights, there may not have been a more impressive play than one that came on the third of their three first-half scoring drives. Having replaced Lawrence early in the second quarter, veteran quarterback C.J. Beathard – now the backup quarterback after the team traded Gardner Minshew II to Philadelphia Saturday – opened his second series by throwing deep down the left side of the field to wide receiver Devin Smith, who the Jaguars signed as a free agent on Saturday. Smith, a second-round selection by the New York Jets in the 2015 NFL Draft who was released by New England on July 27, laid out and made a diving reception for a 45-yard gain to the Dallas 30. The play set up a 45-yard field goal by Josh Lambo. It was a big kick for Lambo, too. He had missed his only two field-goal attempts of 40 yards or more this preseason.
5. Cotton, Cotton and more Cotton.Jaguars wide receiver Jeff Cotton Jr., who flashed multiple days during Jaguars 2021 Training Camp, made a strong case Sunday in the Jaguars' final preseason game –standing out on multiple plays in the first and second half. First, the first-year veteran made what appeared to be a leaping touchdown reception in the second quarter on a 30-yard pass from Beathard. While officials overturned that play and ruled Cotton didn't have possession before sliding out of bounds, Cotton made a spectacular diving reception later in the quarter to move the Jaguars to the Dallas 45. That series ended with Cowboys safety Israel Mukuamu intercepting Beathard, but Hammond turned in another long gain in the third quarter, turning a short pass from third-team quarterback Jake Luton into a 29-yard catch-and-run gain to the Jaguars 47.